In the chapter “A History of Ideas Concerning the Morality of Suicide, Assisted Suicide and Voluntary Euthanasia” author Craig Paterson explores questions concerning the legitimacy of the practices of suicide, assisted suicide, and voluntary euthanasia. The aim of this article is of identifying some of the main historical protagonists, and delineating some of the key arguments that have been used for the acceptance or rejection of these practices.
The article examines from an historical perspective some of the key ideas used in contemporary bioethics debates both for and against the practices of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Key thinkers examined--spanning the Ancient, Medieval and Modern periods--include Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Hume, Kant, and Mill. The article concludes with a synthesizing summary of key ideas that oppose or defend assisted suicide and euthanasia.
As medical technology advances and severely injured or ill people can be kept alive and functioning long beyond what was previously medically possible, the debate surrounding the ethics of end-of-life care and quality-of-life issues has grown more urgent. In this lucid and vigorous book, Craig Paterson discusses assisted suicide and euthanasia from a fully fledged but non-dogmatic secular natural law perspective. He rehabilitates and revitalises the natural law approach to moral reasoning by developing a pluralistic account of just why (...) we are required by practical rationality to respect and not violate key demands generated by the primary goods of persons, especially human life. Important issues that shape the moral quality of an action are explained and analysed: intention/foresight; action/omission; action/consequences; killing/letting die; innocence/non-innocence; person/non-person. Paterson defends the central normative proposition that ‘it is always a serious moral wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human person, whether self or another, notwithstanding any further appeal to consequences or motive’. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: Table of Cases xi -- Table of legislation xv -- Introduction: Medicine Men, Outlaws and Voluntary Euthanasia 1 -- 1. To Kill or not to Kill; is that the Euthanasia Question? 9 -- Introduction-Why Euthanasia? 9 -- Dead or alive? 16 -- Euthanasia as Homicide 25 -- Euthanasia as Death with Dignity 29 -- 2. Euthanasia and Clinically assisted Death: from Caring to Killing? 35 -- Introduction 35 -- The Indefinite (...) Continuation of Palliative Treatment 38 -- Withholding or Withdrawing Treatment 44 -- The Principle of Double Effect 54 -- Physician Assisted Suicide 60 -- Mercy Killing 64 -- Conclusions 66 -- 3. Consent to Treatment but Not to Death 69 -- Introduction-Why Consent? 69 -- Without Consent 70 -- Killing and Consent 73 -- Valid Consent, Freely Given? 74 -- Old Enough to Consent 80 -- Deciding for Others 82 -- Conclusions-A Consent Too Far? 93 -- 4. Autonomy, Self-determination and Self-destruction 95 -- Introduction-Autonomous Choices 95 -- Choosing to Die-Suicide and Autonomy 100 -- Suicidal Intentions 107 -- Autonomous Clinical Discretion 110 -- Deciding to Live or Die-Whose Decision? 112 -- 5. Living Wills and the Will to Die 115 -- Introduction 115 -- I Know My Will 118 -- This is My Will 121 -- I Will Decide 128 -- Will My Will be Done? 134 -- Where There's a Will 137 -- Conclusions 143 -- 6. Is Euthanasia a Dignified Death? 145 -- Introduction-Why Dignity? 145 -- Needing Dignity 146 -- Finding Dignity 149 -- Achieving Dignity in Dying 151 -- Dignifying Death 157 -- 7. Conclusions: Dignified Life, Dignified Death and Dignified Law 165 -- Select Bibliography 175 -- Index 183. (shrink)
This paper re-evaluates euthanasia and assisted suicide from the perspective of eudaimonia, the ancient Greek conception of happiness across one’s whole life. It is argued that one cannot be said to have fully flourished or had a truly happy life if one’s death is preceded by a period of unbearable pain or suffering that one cannot avoid without assistance in ending one’s life. While death is to be accepted as part of life, it should not be left to nature (...) to dictate the way we die, and it is fundamentally unjust to grant people liberal latitude in how they live their lives while granting them little control over the conclusion of their life narratives. Three objections to this position are considered and rejected; the paper also offers an explanation of why we think killing can be a benefit. Ultimately, euthanasia may be necessary in some cases in order to achieve eudaimonia. (shrink)
It is widely accepted in clinical ethics that removing a patient from a ventilator at the patient’s request is ethically permissible. This constitutes voluntary passive euthanasia. However, voluntary active euthanasia, such as giving a patient a lethal overdose with the intention of ending that patient’s life, is ethically proscribed, as is assisted suicide, such as providing a patient with lethal pills or a lethal infusion. Proponents of voluntary active euthanasia and assisted suicide have argued that the distinction (...) between killing and letting die is flawed and that there is no real difference between actively ending someone’s life and "merely" allowing them to die. This paper shows that, although this view is correct, there is even less of a distinction than is commonly acknowledged in the literature. It does so by suggesting a new perspective that more accurately reflects the moral features of end-of-life situations: if a patient is mentally competent and wants to die, his body itself constitutes unwarranted life support unfairly prolonging his or her mental life. (shrink)
The Dutch rules governing neonatal euthanasia, known as the Groningen Protocol, require parental consent for severely disabled infants with poor prognoses to have their lives terminated. This paper questions whether parental consent should be dispositive in such cases, and argues that the potential suffering of the neonate or pediatric patient should be the decisive factor under such unfortunate circumstances.
Margaret Otlowski investigates the complex and controversial issue of active voluntary euthanasia. She critically examines the criminal law prohibition of medically administered active voluntary euthanasia in common law jurisdictions, and carefully looks at the situation as handled in practice. The evidence of patient demands for active euthanasia and the willingness of some doctors to respond to patients' requests is explored, and an argument for reform of the law is made with reference to the position in the Netherlands (...) (where active voluntary euthanasia is now openly practiced). (shrink)
Whether the law should permit voluntary euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide is one of the most vital questions facing all modern societies. Internationally, the main obstacle to legalisation has proved to be the objection that, even if they were morally acceptable in certain 'hard cases', voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide could not be effectively controlled; society would slide down a 'slippery slope' to the killing of patients who did not make a free and informed request, or for whom palliative (...) care would have offered an alternative. How cogent is this objection? This book provides the general reader (who need have no expertise in philosophy, law or medicine) with a lucid introduction to this central question in the debate, not least by reviewing the Dutch euthanasia experience. It will interest all in any country whether currently for or against legalisation, who wish to ensure that their opinions are better informed. (shrink)
Abstract This paper introduces the controversy surrounding active voluntary euthanasia and describes the legal position on euthanasia and assisted suicide in the UK. Findings from studies of the nurses' attitudes to euthanasia from the national and international literature are reviewed. There are acknowledged difficulties in carrying out research into attitudes to euthanasia and hence the review of findings from the published studies is followed by a methodological review. This methodological review examines the research design and data (...) collection methods used in the published studies, problems with understanding definitions of euthanasia and the measurement of attitudes. The paper concludes with a discussion of how research in this area may influence nursing practice. (shrink)
We argue that the dead donor rule, which states that multiple vital organs should only be taken from dead patients, is justified neither in principle nor in practice. We use a thought experiment and a guiding assumption in the literature about the justification of moral principles to undermine the theoretical justification for the rule. We then offer two real world analogues to this thought experiment, voluntary active euthanasia and capital punishment, and argue that the moral permissibility of terminating any (...) patient through the removal of vital organs cannot turn on whether or not the practice violates the dead donor rule.Next, we consider practical justifications for the dead donor rule. Specifically, we consider whether there are compelling reasons to promulgate the rule even though its corresponding moral principle is not theoretically justified. We argue that there are no such reasons. In fact, we argue that promulgating the rule may actually decrease public trust in organ procurement procedures and medical institutions generally – even in states that do not permit capital punishment or voluntary active euthanasia.Finally, we examine our case against the dead donor rule in the light of common arguments for it. We find that these arguments are often misplaced – they do not support the dead donor rule. Instead, they support the quite different rule that patients should not be killed for their vital organs. (shrink)
Chapter one argues for the important contribution that a natural law based framework can make towards an analysis and assessment of key controversies surrounding the practices of suicide, assisted suicide, and voluntary euthanasia. The second chapter considers a number of historical contributions to the debate. The third chapter takes up the modern context of ideas that have increasingly come to the fore in shaping the 'push' for reform. Particular areas focused upon include the value of human life, the value (...) of personal autonomy, and the rejection of double effect reasoning. Chapter four engages in the task of pointing out structural weakness in utilitarianism and deontology. The thesis argues that major systemic weaknesses in both approaches can be overcome by a teleology of basic human goods. John Finnis' work becomes the underpinning of subsequent applied natural law analysis. Chapter five proceeds to argue for the defence of the intrinsic good of human life from direct attack. The thesis holds out for the proposition "that it is always a serious moral wrong to intentionally kill a human person, whether self or another, regardless of a further appeal to consequences or motive." In support of this, it defends the validity of double effect reasoning as an indispensable part of applied moral decision making. Chapter six critically assesses the arguments of anti-perfectionists that it is not the business of the state to enforce deep or substantive conceptions of the 'good life.' The chapter moves on to argue that the natural law conception of the person in society, centred on the common good, provides a solid framework for assessing both the justification for, as well as the limits on, the role of the state to use its power to legally impose certain moral standards. Chapter seven addresses the concrete relationship between natural law and legal policy by exploring the issue of assisted suicide in the constitutional context of the United States.
In two recent papers, Hugh McLachlan, Jacob Busch and Raffaele Rodogno have criticised my new perspective on euthanasia. Each paper analyses my argument and suggests two flaws. McLachlan identifies what he sees as important points regarding the justification of legal distinctions in the absence of corresponding moral differences and the professional role of the doctor. Busch and Rodogno target my criterion of brain life, arguing that it is a necessary but not sufficient condition and that it is not generalisable. (...) In this paper I indicate flaws in all of these criticisms, and again suggest that my perspective does add something new to the debate. (shrink)
There are not enough solid organs available to meet the needs of patients with organ failure. Thousands of patients every year die on the waiting lists for transplantation. Yet there is one currently available, underutilized, potential source of organs. Many patients die in intensive care following withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment whose organs could be used to save the lives of others. At present the majority of these organs go to waste.In this paper we consider and evaluate a range of ways (...) to improve the number and quality of organs available from this group of patients. Changes to consent arrangements (for example conscription of organs after death) or changes to organ donation practice could dramatically increase the numbers of organs available, though they would conflict with currently accepted norms governing transplantation.We argue that one alternative, Organ Donation Euthanasia, would be a rational improvement over current practice regarding withdrawal of life support. It would give individuals the greatest chance of being able to help others with their organs after death. It would increase patient autonomy. It would reduce the chance of suffering during the dying process. We argue that patients should be given the choice of whether and how they would like to donate their organs in the event of withdrawal of life support in intensive care.Continuing current transplantation practice comes at the cost of death and prolonged organ failure. We should seriously consider all of the alternatives. (shrink)
The number of people suffering from dementia will rise considerably in the years to come. This will have important implications for society. People suffering from dementia have to rely on relatives and professional caregivers when their disorder progresses. Some people want to determine for themselves their moment of death, if they should become demented. They think that the decline in personality caused by severe dementia is shocking and unacceptable. In this context, some people consider euthanasia as a way to (...) avoid total deterioration. In this article, we discuss some practical and ethical dilemmas regarding euthanasia in persons with severe dementia based on an advance euthanasia directive. We are using a personalist approach in dealing with these ethical dilemmas. (shrink)
Slippery slope arguments have been important in the euthanasia debate for at least half a century. In 1957 the Cambridge legal scholar Glanville Williams wrote a controversial book, The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law, in which he presented the decriminalizing of euthanasia as a modern liberal proposal taking its rightful place alongside proposals to decriminalize contraception, sterilization, abortion, and attempted suicide (all of which the book also advocated).1 Opposition to these reforms was in turn presented as (...) exclusively religious and particularly Roman Catholic. Thus Williams asserted that "euthanasia can be condemned only according to religious opinion" (1957, p. 312).The following year, in .. (shrink)
Respect for autonomy is typically considered a key reason for allowing physician assisted suicide and euthanasia. However, several recent papers have claimed this to be grounded in a misconception of the normative relevance of autonomy. It has been argued that autonomy is properly conceived of as a value, and that this makes assisted suicide as well as euthanasia wrong, since they destroy the autonomy of the patient. This paper evaluates this line of reasoning by investigating the conception of (...) valuable autonomy. Starting off from the current debate in end-of-life care, two different interpretations of how autonomy is valuable is discussed. According to one interpretation, autonomy is a personal prudential value, which may provide a reason why euthanasia and assisted suicide might be against a patient’s best interests. According to a second interpretation, inspired by Kantian ethics, being autonomous is unconditionally valuable, which may imply a duty to preserve autonomy. We argue that both lines of reasoning have limitations when it comes to situations relevant for end-of life care. It is concluded that neither way of reasoning can be used to show that assisted suicide or euthanasia always is impermissible. (shrink)
The objective of this paper is to understand from a sociological perspective how the moral question of euthanasia, framed as the “right to die”, emerges and is dealt with in society. It takes France and Germany as case studies, two countries in which euthanasia is prohibited and which have similar legislation on the issue. I presuppose that, and explore how, each society has its own specificities in terms of practical, social and political norms that affect the ways in (...) which they deal with these issues. The paper thus seeks to understand how requests for the “right to die” emerge in each society, through both the debate (analysis of daily newspapers, medical and philosophical literature, legal texts) and the practices (ethnographic work in three French and two German hospitals) that elucidate the phenomenon. It does so, however, without attempting to solve the moral question of euthanasia. In spite of the differences observed between these two countries, the central issue at stake in their respective debates is the question of the individual’s autonomy to choose the conditions in which he or she wishes to die; these conditions depend, amongst others, on the doctor-patient relationship, the organisation of end-of-life care in hospital settings, and more generally, on the way autonomy is defined and handled in the public debate. (shrink)
1. The traditional position and the pressures for change. The Western legal tradition -- The Christian ethical hinterland -- The exceptional value of human life -- The justification of taking human life -- Suicide -- Christian ethics, assisted suicide, and voluntary euthanasia -- The cultural pressures for change -- 2. The value of human life -- 3. The morality of acts of killing -- 4. Slippery slopes.
An agent who takes his own life acts in violation of the moral law, according to Kant; suicide, and, by extension, assisted suicide are therefore wrong. By a similar argument, and with a few important exceptions, killing is wrong; implicitly, then, voluntary euthanasia is also wrong. Kant's conclusions are uncompelling and his argument in these matters is undermined on considering other areas of his thought. Kant, in forbidding suicide and euthanasia, is conflating respect for persons and respect for (...) people, and assuming that, in killing a person (either oneself or another), we are thereby undermining personhood. But an argument along these lines is faulty according to Kant's own standards. There is no reason why Kantians have to accept that self-killing and euthanasia are contrary to the moral law. Even if some Kantians adhere to this doctrine, others can reject it. (shrink)
During the past four decades, the Netherlands played a leading role in the debate about euthanasia and assisted suicide. Despite the claim that other countries would soon follow the Dutch legalization of euthanasia, only Belgium and the American state of Oregon did. In many countries, intense discussions took place. This article discusses some major contributions to the discussion about euthanasia and assisted suicide as written by Nigel Biggar (2004), Arthur J. Dyck (2002), Neil M. Gorsuch (2006), and (...) John Keown (2002). They share a concern that legalization will undermine a society's respect for the inviolability and sanctity of life. Moreover, the Report of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill (2005) is analyzed. All studies use ethical, theological, philosophical, and legal sources. All these documents include references to experiences from the Netherlands. In addition, two recent Dutch documents are analyzed which advocate further liberalization of the Dutch euthanasia practice, so as to include infants (Groningen Protocol, NVK 2005) and elderly people "suffering from life" (Dijkhuis Report, KNMG 2004). (shrink)
During the summer of 1999 and in April 2002 Iwent to the Netherlands in order to meet someof the leading authorities on the euthanasiapolicy. They were asked multiple questions.This study reports the main findings to thequestion: should doctors suggest euthanasia totheir patients? Some interviewees did notobserve any significant ethical concernsinvolved in suggesting euthanasia. For variousreasons they thought physicians should offereuthanasia as an option. Two intervieweesasserted that doctors don''t propose euthanasiato their patients. Five interviewees objectedto physician''s initiative.
This article deals with the euthanasia debate in light of new life-sustaining technologies such as the left ventricular assist device (LVAD). The question arises: does the switching off of a LVAD by a doctor upon the request of a patient amount to active or passive euthanasia, i.e. to ‘killing’ or to ‘letting die’? The answer hinges on whether the device is to be regarded as a proper part of the patient's body or as something external. We usually regard (...) the switching off of an internal device as killing, whereas the deactivation of an external device is seen as ‘letting die’. The case is notoriously difficult to decide for hybrid devices such as LVADs, which are partly inside and partly outside the patient's body. Additionally, on a methodological level, I will argue that the ‘ontological’ arguments from analogy given for both sides are problematic. Given the impasse facing the ontological arguments, complementary phenomenological arguments deserve closer inspection. In particular, we should consider whether phenomenologically the LVAD is perceived as a body part or as an external device. I will support the thesis that the deactivation of a LVAD is to be regarded as passive euthanasia if the device is not perceived by the patient as a part of the body proper. (shrink)
It has been argued that voluntary euthanasia (VE) and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) are morally wrong. Yet, a gravely suffering patient might insist that he has a moral right to the procedures even if they were morally wrong. There are also philosophers who maintain that an agent can have a moral right to do something that is morally wrong. In this article, I assess the view that a suffering patient can have a moral right to VE and PAS despite the (...) moral wrongness of the procedures in light of the main argument for a moral right to do wrong found in recent philosophical literature. I maintain that the argument does not provide adequate support for such a right to VE and PAS. (shrink)
Euthanasia and physician assisted-suicide are terms used to describe the process in which a doctor of a sick or disabled individual engages in an activity which directly or indirectly leads to their death. This behavior is engaged by the healthcare provider based on their humanistic desire to end suffering and pain. The psychiatrist's involvement may be requested in several distinct situations including evaluation of patient capacity when an appeal for euthanasia is requested on grounds of terminal somatic illness (...) or when the patient is requesting euthanasia due to mental suffering. We compare attitudes of 49 psychiatrists towards euthanasia and assisted suicide with a group of 54 other physicians by means of a questionnaire describing different patients, who either requested physician-assisted suicide or in whom euthanasia as a treatment option was considered, followed by a set of questions relating to euthanasia implementation. When controlled for religious practice, psychiatrists expressed more conservative views regarding euthanasia than did physicians from other medical specialties. Similarly female physicians and orthodox physicians indicated more conservative views. Differences may be due to factors inherent in subspecialty education. We suggest that in light of the unique complexity and context of patient euthanasia requests, based on their training and professional expertise psychiatrists are well suited to take a prominent role in evaluating such requests to die and making a decision as to the relative importance of competing variables. (shrink)
The philosophers' tendency to characterize euthanasia in terms of either the right or the responsibility to die is, in some ways, problematic. Stepping outside of the analytic framework, the author draws out the implications of the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas for the euthanasia debate, tracing the way Levinas's position differs not only from the philosophical consensus but also from the theological one. The article shows that, according to Levinas, there is no ethical case for suicide or assisted suicide. (...) Death cannot be assumed or chosen-not only because suicide is a logically and metaphysically contradictory concept but also because in the choice of death ethical responsibility turns into irresponsibility. However, since Levinas holds that one must be responsible to the point of expiation, he can be said to approve certain actions that may have the consequence of hastening death. (shrink)
BackgroundThe Netherlands is one of the few countries where euthanasia is legal under strict conditions. This study investigates whether Dutch newspaper articles use the term ‘euthanasia’ according to the legal definition and determines what arguments for and against euthanasia they contain.MethodsWe did an electronic search of seven Dutch national newspapers between January 2009 and May 2010 and conducted a content analysis.ResultsOf the 284 articles containing the term ‘euthanasia’, 24% referred to practices outside the scope of the (...) law, mostly relating to the forgoing of life-prolonging treatments and assistance in suicide by others than physicians. Of the articles with euthanasia as the main topic, 36% described euthanasia in the context of a terminally ill patient, 24% for older persons, 16% for persons with dementia, and 9% for persons with a psychiatric disorder. The most frequent arguments for euthanasia included the importance of self-determination and the fact that euthanasia contributes to a good death. The most frequent arguments opposing euthanasia were that suffering should instead be alleviated by better care, that providing euthanasia can be disturbing, and that society should protect the vulnerable.ConclusionsOf the newspaper articles, 24% uses the term ‘euthanasia’ for practices that are outside the scope of the euthanasia law. Typically, the more unusual cases are discussed. This might lead to misunderstandings between citizens and physicians. Despite the Dutch legalisation of euthanasia, the debate about its acceptability and boundaries is ongoing and both sides of the debate are clearly represented. (shrink)
This paper discusses physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and voluntary active euthanasia (VAE), supplies a short history and argues in favour of permitting both once rigid criteria have been set and the cases retro-reviewed. I suggest that among these criteria should be that VAE should only be permitted with one more necessary criterion: that VAE should only be allowed when physician assisted suicide is not a possible option. If the patient is able to ingest and absorb the medication there is no (...) reason why VAE should be permitted. A brief history of VAE and PAS is given and some of the arguments which have been given are analyzed. The Principle of the Double Effect is briefly discussed and why, in my opinion, it is not a valid principle is briefly discussed. (shrink)
Some writers have argued that a Kantian approach to ethics can be used to justify suicide in cases of extreme dementia, where a patient lacks the rationality required of Kantian moral agents. I worry that this line of thinking may lead to the more extreme claim that euthanasia is a proper Kantian response to severe dementia (and similar afflictions). Such morally treacherous thinking seems to be directly implied by the arguments that lead Dennis Cooley and similar writers to claim (...) that Kant might support suicide. If rationality is the only factor in valuing a human life, then the loss of that rationality (however such loss might be defined) would allow us to use essentially utilitarian thinking in order to support non-voluntary euthanasia, since the patients themselves would no longer be moral agents that demand respect. (shrink)
This article discusses the latest developments regarding euthanasia and palliative care in the Netherlands. On the one hand, a legally codified practice of euthanasia has been established. On the other hand, there has been a strong development of palliative care. The combination of these simultaneous processes seems to be rather unique. This contribution first focuses on these remarkable developments. Subsequently, the analysis concentrates on the question of how these new developments have influenced the ethical debate.
Euthanasia has become the subject of ethical and political debate in many countries including Mexico. Since many physicians are deeply concerned about euthanasia, due to their crucial participation in its decision and implementation, it is important to know the psychological meaning that the term ‘euthanasia’ has for them, as well as their attitudes toward this practice. This study explores psychological meaning and attitudes toward euthanasia in 546 Mexican subjects, either medical students or physicians, who were divided (...) into three groups: a) beginning students, b) advanced students, and c) physicians. We used the semantic networks technique, which analyzed the words the participants associated with the term ‘euthanasia’. Positive psychological meaning, as well as positive attitudes, prevailed among advanced students and physicians when defining euthanasia, whereas both positive and negative psychological meaning together with more ambivalent attitudes toward euthanasia predominated in beginning students. The findings are discussed in the context of a current debate on a bill proposing active euthanasia in Mexico City. (shrink)
In a recent article, Henri Wijsbek discusses the 1991 Chabot “psychiatric euthanasia” case in the Netherlands, and argues that Chabot was justified in helping his patient to die. Dutch legislation at the time permitted physician assisted suicide when the patient’s condition is severe, hopeless, and unbearable. The Dutch Supreme Court agreed with Chabot that the patient met these criteria because of her justified depression, even though she was somatically healthy. Wijsbek argues that in this case, the patient’s integrity had (...) been undermined by recent events, and that this is the basis for taking her request seriously; it was unreasonable to expect that she could start again. In this paper, I do not challenge the Dutch euthanasia criteria in the case of somatic illness, but I argue that both Chabot and Wijsbek are wrong because we can never be sufficiently confident in cases of severe exogenous depression to assist the patient in her irreversible act. This is partly because of the essential difference between somatic and mental illness, and because of the possibility of therapy and other help. In addition, I argue that Wijsbek’s concept of integrity cannot do the work that he expects of it. Finally, I consider a 2011 position paper from the Royal Dutch Medical Association on euthanasia, and the implications it might have for Chabot-style cases in the future. (shrink)
This paper introduces a series of papers dealing with the topic of euthanasia as an introduction to a variety of attitudes by health-care professionals and philosophers interested in this issue. The lead in paperâand really the lead in ideaâstresses the fact that what we are discussing concerns only a minority of people lucky enough to live in conditions of acceptable sanitation and who have access to medical care. The topic of euthanasia and PAS really has three questions: (1) (...) is killing another ever ethically acceptable; (2) is the participation of health professionals ethically different and (3) is it wiser to permit and set criteria (being fully aware of some dangers that lurk in such a move) or to forbid (knowing that it will occur clandestinely and uncontrolled). This paper takes no definite stand although it is very troubled by useless suffering (not only pain) by many who would wish their life and with it their suffering ended. (shrink)
In this Critical Notice of Emily Jackson and John Keown’s Debating Euthanasia , the respective lines of argument put forward by each contributor are set out and the key debating points identified. Particular consideration is given to the points each contributor makes concerning the sanctity of human life and whether slippery slopes leading from voluntary medically assisted dying to non-voluntary euthanasia would be established if voluntary medically assisted dying were to be legalised. Finally, consideration is given to the (...) positions adopted by the contributors in relation to the legalisation of voluntary medically assisted dying. (shrink)
In recent decades, the general public has become increasingly receptive toward a legislation that allows active voluntary euthanasia (AVE). The purpose of this study was to survey the current attitude towards AVE within the Austrian population and to identify explanatory factors in the areas of socio-demographics, personal experiences with care, and ideological orientation. A further objective was to examine differences depending on the type of problem formulation (abstract vs. situational) for the purpose of measuring attitude.
Ever since the start of the twentieth century, a growing interest and importance of studying fatwas can be noted, with a focus on Arabic printed fatwas (Wokoeck 2009). The scholarly study of end-of-life ethics in these fatwas is a very recent feature, taking a first start in the 1980s (Anees 1984; Rispler-Chaim 1993). Since the past two decades, we have witnessed the emergence of a multitude of English fatwas that can easily be consulted through the Internet (‘e-fatwas’), providing Muslims worldwide (...) with a form of Islamic normative guidance on a huge variety of topics. Although English online fatwas do provide guidance for Muslims and Muslim minorities worldwide on a myriad of topics including end-of-life issues, they have hardly been studied. This study analyses Islamic views on (non-)voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide as expressed in English Sunni fatwas published on independent—i.e. not created by established organisations—Islamic websites. We use Tyan’s definition of a fatwa to distinguish between fatwas and other types of texts offering Islamic guidance through the Internet. The study of e-fatwas is framed in the context of Bunt’s typology of Cyber Islamic Environments (Bunt 2009) and in the framework of Roy’s view on the virtual umma (Roy 2002). ‘(Non-)voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide’ are defined using Broeckaert’s conceptual framework on treatment decisions at the end of life (Broeckaert 2008). We analysed 32 English Sunni e-fatwas. All of the e-fatwas discussed here firmly speak out against every form of active termination of life. They often bear the same structure, basing themselves solely on Quranic verses and prophetic traditions, leaving aside classical jurisprudential discussions on the subject. In this respect they share the characteristics central in Roy’s typology of the fatwa in the virtual umma. On the level of content, they are in line with the international literature on Islamic end-of-life ethics. English Sunni e-fatwas make up an influential and therefore important developing body of Islamic orthodox normative authority on end-of-life ethics that is still open for further research. (shrink)
The Belgian Act on Euthanasia came into force on 23 September 2002, making Belgium the second country—after the Netherlands—to decriminalize euthanasia under certain due-care conditions. Since then, Belgian nurses have been increasingly involved in euthanasia care. In this paper, we report a qualitative study based on in-depth interviews with 18 nurses from Flanders (the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium) who have had experience in caring for patients requesting euthanasia since May 2002 (the approval of the Act). We (...) found that the care process for patients requesting euthanasia is a complex and dynamic process, consisting of several stages, starting from the period preceding the euthanasia request and ending with the aftercare stage. When asked after the way in which they experience their involvement in the euthanasia care process, all nurses described it as a grave and difficult process, not only on an organizational and practical level, but also on an emotional level. “Intense” is the dominant feeling experienced by nurses. This is compounded by the presence of other feelings such as great concern and responsibility on the one hand, being content in truly helping the patient to die serenely, and doing everything in one’s power to contribute to this; but also feeling unreal and ambivalent on the other hand, because death is arranged. Nurses feel a discrepancy, because although it is a nice death, which happens in dignity and with respect, it is also an unnatural death. The clinical ethical implications of these findings are discussed. (shrink)
Although euthanasia is seen as the problem of the individual will and as one’s right to privacy, to a better quality of life or to a dignified death, it has major institutional implications. They are closely related to the juridical system, to the way of understanding state involvement in protecting the individuals and respecting their freedoms, to the institutional system of health care, to the government rules that establish social, political or professional practices. The public debate around the topics (...) related to the human condition, like euthanasia, grants a special force to public communication, to organizational communication, to communication in professional environments, to physician-patient communication and, more generally, to interpersonal communication. In this text we emphasize the importance of public debate on euthanasia from the perspective of organizational ethics, of medical deontology, of patients’ rights, but especially of elaborating public policies and national programs, and we underline the importance of the need to establish protocols for health care, as well as to build a framework of democratic communication. (shrink)
As a new approach to the still unsettled problem of a morally significant difference between active and passive euthanasia, the meanings of the notion of killing are distinguished on the levels of causality, intention, and motivation. This distinction allows a thorough analysis and refutation of arguments for the equality of killing and letting die which are often put forward in the euthanasia debate. Moreover, an investigation into the structure of the physician's action on those three levels yields substantial (...) differences between the two ways of acting. As can be demonstrated, only a teleological notion of the organism is able to grasp the characteristic feature of active euthanasia. On this basis it is argued that an action against the organism as a whole must, on the interpersonal level, be at once directed against the patient as a person himself. (shrink)
In order to discuss the normative aspects of euthanasia one has to clarify what is meant by active and passive euthanasia. Many philosophers deny the possibility of distinguishing the two by purely descriptive means, e.g. on the basis of theories of action or the differences between acting and omitting to act. Against this, such a purely descriptive distinction will be defended in this paper by discussing and refining the theory developed by Dieter Birnbacher in his “Tun und Unterlassen”. (...) On this basis I will suggest a new definition of active and passive euthanasia. (shrink)
Most quantitative studies that survey nurses’ attitudes toward euthanasia and/or assisted suicide, also attempt to assess the influence of religion on these attitudes. We wanted to evaluate the operationalisation of religion and world view in these surveys. In the Pubmed database we searched for relevant articles published before August 2008 using combinations of search terms. Twenty-eight relevant articles were found. In five surveys nurses were directly asked whether religious beliefs, religious practices and/or ideological convictions influenced their attitudes, or the (...) respondents were requested to mention the decisional basis for their answers on questions concerning end-of-life issues. In other surveys the influence of religion and world view was assessed indirectly through a comparison of the attitudes of different types of believers and/or non-believers toward euthanasia or assisted suicide. In these surveys we find subjective religious or ideological questions (questions inquiring about the perceived importance of religion or world view in life, influence of religion or world view on life in general, or how religious the respondents consider themselves) and objective questions (questions inquiring about religious practice, acceptance of religious dogmas, and religious or ideological affiliation). Religious or ideological affiliation is the most frequently used operationalisation of religion and world view. In 16 surveys only one religious or ideological question was asked. In most articles the operationalisation of religion and world view is very limited and does not reflect the diversity and complexity of religion and world view in contemporary society. Future research should pay more attention to the different dimensions of religion and world view, the religious plurality of Western society and the particularities of religion in non-Western contexts. (shrink)
In discussions about the legalisation of active, voluntary euthanasia it is sometimes claimed that what should happen in a liberal society is that the two sides in the debate “agree to disagree”. This paper explores what is entailed by agreeing to disagree and shows that this is considerably more complicated than what is usually believed to be the case. Agreeing to disagree is philosophically problematic and will often lead to an unstable compromise.
Two decades of research on euthanasia in the Netherlands have resulted into clear insights in the frequency and characteristics of euthanasia and other medical end-of-life decisions in the Netherlands. These empirical studies have contributed to the quality of the public debate, and to the regulating and public control of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. No slippery slope seems to have occurred. Physicians seem to adhere to the criteria for due care in the large majority of cases. Further, it (...) has been shown that the majority of physicians think that the euthanasia Act has improved their legal certainty and contributes to the carefulness of life-terminating acts. In 2005, eighty percent of the euthanasia cases were reported to the review committees. Thus, the transparency envisaged by the Act still does not extend to all cases. Unreported cases almost all involve the use of opioids, and are not considered to be euthanasia by physicians. More education and debate is needed to disentangle in these situations which acts should be regarded as euthanasia and which should not. Medical end-of-life decision-making is a crucial part of end-of-life care. It should therefore be given continuous attention in health care policy and medical training. Systematic periodic research is crucial for enhancing our understanding of end-of-life care in modern medicine, in which the pursuit of a good quality of dying is nowadays widely recognized as an important goal, in addition to the traditional goals such as curing diseases and prolonging life. (shrink)
Objectives To describe the form and content of ethics policies on euthanasia in Flemish nursing homes and to determine the possible influence of religious affiliation on policy content. Methods Content analysis of euthanasia policy documents. Results Of the 737 nursing homes we contacted, 612 (83%) completed and returned the questionnaire. Of 92 (15%) nursing homes that reported to have a euthanasia policy, 85 (92%) provided a copy of their policy. Nursing homes applied the euthanasia law with (...) additional palliative procedures and interdisciplinary deliberations. More Catholic nursing homes compared to non-Catholic nursing homes did not permit euthanasia. Policies described several phases of the euthanasia care process as well as involvement of caregivers, patients, and relatives; ethical issues; support for caregivers; reporting; and procedures for handling advance directives. Conclusion Our study revealed that euthanasia requests from patients are seriously considered in euthanasia policies of nursing homes, with great attention for palliative care and interdisciplinary cooperation. (shrink)
Background: Due to recent legislations on euthanasia and its current practice in the Netherlands and Belgium, issues of end-of-life medicine have become very vital in many European countries. In 2002, the Ethics Working Group of the German Association for Palliative Medicine (DGP) has conducted a survey among its physician members in order to evaluate their attitudes towards different end-of-life medical practices, such as euthanasia (EUT), physician-assisted suicide (PAS), and terminal sedation (TS). Methods: An anonymous questionnaire was sent to (...) the 411 DGP physicians, consisting of 14 multiple choice questions on positions that might be adopted in different hypothetical scenarios on situations of “intolerable suffering” in end-of-life care. For the sake of clarification, several definitions and legal judgements of different terms used in the German debate on premature termination of life were included. For statistical analysis t-tests and Pearson-correlations were used. Results: The response rate was 61% (n=251). The proportions of the respondents who were opposed to legalizing different forms of premature termination of life were: 90% opposed to EUT, 75% to PAS, 94% to PAS for psychiatric patients. Terminal sedation was accepted by 94% of the members. The main decisional bases drawn on for the answers were personal ethical values, professional experience with palliative care, knowledge of alternative approaches, knowledge of ethical guidelines and of the national legal frame. Conclusions: In sharp contrast to similar surveys conducted in other countries, only a minority of 9.6% of the DGP physicians supported the legalization of EUT. The misuse of medical knowledge for inhumane killing in the Nazi period did not play a relevant role for the respondents’ negative attitude towards EUT. Palliative care needs to be stronger established and promoted within the German health care system in order to improve the quality of end-of-life situations which subsequently is expected to lead to decreasing requests for EUT by terminally ill patients. (shrink)
The Hasting Center's, "Guidelines on the Termination of Life-Sustaining Treatment and the Care of the Dying" (1987), outlines a position on assisted suicide that I argue is contradictory. On one hand the guidelines offers a position on human dignity and autonomy that accords competent patients the right to intentionally kill themselves by requesting doctors to terminate life-support. Yet, on the other hand, the guidelines argue that terminating life-support upon request is not ever the moral equivalent of doctored-assisted suicide, and granting (...) the right to the former does not grant a right to the latter. In this paper I argue that in some circumstances a right to obligate your doctor to pull the plug on life-support is morally equivalent to the right to obligate your doctor to assist you in dying by more direct means, e.g. administering a lethal dose of medication. If the fundamental values of autonomy, self-determination, and human dignity justify this right in the one case, they eo ipso justify this right in the other. Both circumstances are subject to the same potential abuse, so citing such potential abuse does not defeat granting an autonomy right in either case. (shrink)
The Netherlands is one of the few countries where euthanasia is legal under strict conditions. This study investigates whether Dutch newspaper articles use the term ‘euthanasia’ according to the legal definition and determines what arguments for and against euthanasia they contain.